A sweet friend from a long time ago, emailed me the other day and said, ” I need help growing tomatoes! I have tried every year and failed miserably. Teach me how to grow a tomato plant and then maybe I can grow more things.”
What I loved about this was that she was reaching out for help and not doing it alone anymore. I also loved that she saw learning how to grow tomatoes as a steppingstone into learning how to grow a garden of different veggies, herbs, and fruits in the future.
After her email, I sat down and started writing an eBook with a video to help her easily grow a tomato plant in a pot with step-by-step instructions. It brought a smile to my face to know that she would be getting vital information on growing tomato plants successfully.
The difference between store bought tomatoes and tomatoes picked fresh from the vine is incomparable. One tomato plant can bear fruit and even be picked as green tomatoes and then tomatoes ripen throughout the week to ripen indoors to be used later with the sweet flavors. Better than store tomatoes hands down.
Here is the beginner’s step by step guide to growing tomatoes easily to help you get that first step of success with gardening and get you ready to take the next challenge on of growing more of your own food with fun and ease. Now let’s start with the basics of growing to know what our tomatoes and other veggies need.
Basic Needs of Plants:
Taking care of the basic needs of plants is crucial for their growth and survival. Just like humans, plants have certain requirements that need to be met in order for them to thrive. These basic needs include water, nutrients, sunlight, and air.
Without these essential elements, a plant cannot carry out its necessary biological processes such as photosynthesis and respiration. Neglecting a plant’s basic needs can lead to issues such as stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and even death. By ensuring that a plant’s basic needs are met, we can help it reach its full potential and contribute to a healthy ecosystem.
The location needed for a garden to grow depends on the type of plants you want to grow. Generally, most plants need access to sunlight, water, and nutrients from the soil.
It is important to choose a location that receives an adequate amount of sunlight and has well-draining soil that can retain moisture.
Organic Matter, Rich Soil
Plants need rich soil to grow because it provides them with the necessary nutrients for their growth and development. Nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are essential for plants to carry out their biological processes such as photosynthesis, respiration, and reproduction.
Rich organic soil can help retain moisture and provide a stable environment for the roots to anchor and absorb water and nutrients the soil moist. This is important because without adequate access to nutrients and water, plants may become stunted or fail to grow altogether.
Water is essential for plant growth because it is used in many of the biological processes that occur within a plant. Water is required to transport nutrients from the soil to different parts of the plant. Consistent access to water is important for plants to carry out these processes and that plants grow more properly.
Without consistent access to water, plants may become stressed and unable to function properly. This can lead to stunted growth or even death in severe cases. On the other hand, too much water can also be detrimental as it can lead to root rot and other fungal diseases.
Timing is important when planting tomatoes because they are a warm-season crop that requires specific conditions to grow and produce fruit. Tomatoes need warm soil temperatures to germinate and grow, with an ideal range between 60-85°F (15-29°C).
Planting too much nitrogen early in the season when soil temperatures are too cold can result in poor germination rates or even death of the plant.
On the other hand, planting too late in the season can also be detrimental as it may not allow enough time for the plants to mature and produce fruit before cooler fall temperatures set in.
It’s important to consider factors such as local climate, soil temperature, and variety characteristics when determining the best time to plant tomatoes for optimal growth and fruit production.
Two Different Types of Tomatoes
The main difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes growing lies in their growth habit.
Determinate tomatoes grow to a certain height, usually around 3-4 feet, and then stop growing. They produce fruit over a short period of time, usually a few weeks to a month, and then the plant dies back.
Indeterminate tomatoes, on the other hand, continue to grow tomatoes and produce fruit throughout the full sun and growing season until they’re killed by frost or disease. They can reach heights of 6-10 feet or more if left unpruned. Indeterminate tomatoes require staking or trellising to support their tall vine-like growth habit.
Can I Plant a Tomato Seed Out in Garden?
Planting a tomato seed directly in the garden is not always a good idea because it can be difficult to control the conditions necessary for successful germination and growth.
Here are some reasons why:
Soil temperature: Tomato seeds require warm soil temperatures of around 60-85°F (15-29°C) for optimal germination, which may not be consistently present in the garden throughout the growing season.
Soil moisture: Tomato seeds need consistent moisture to properly germinate, but outdoor conditions such as rain or overwatering can lead to inconsistent or excessive moisture levels that can harm or even kill young tomato plants.
Timing: As mentioned earlier, planting tomatoes at the right time is important for optimal growth and fruit production. Planting seeds directly in the garden may not allow enough time for plants to mature and produce fruit before cooler fall temperatures set in.
To increase your chances of success when growing tomatoes, start seeds indoors under controlled conditions before transplanting them into the garden once they have developed into healthy seedlings.
Then when the temperature is warm enough, the transplants are ready to grow, and you won’t miss your growing tomato plants season. Tomatoes are not a fall and winter crop; they don’t like it cold.
Tomato plants grow best in the heat but may need light afternoon shade if too hot. Even though they love it warm; they are not heat loving plants. There may be some types that are heat tolerant varieties, choose those when planting in hot areas.
How to Start a Seed Indoors:
Here are six steps to planting a tomato seed to start growing indoors.
Seed Sprouting Phase:
Choose a container: Select a container that is at least 4 inches deep and has drainage holes.
Fill the container with sterilized seed starting mix: Use a high-quality potting mix that is specifically designed for starting seeds.
Plant the seeds: Sow the tomato seeds about ¼ inch deep in the soil and cover them lightly with more soil.
Water the soil: Water the soil thoroughly but be careful not to overwater as this can lead to rotting.
Provide light and warmth: Place the container in a warm location that gets plenty of sunlight or use artificial lighting if natural light is not available. You might need to add a heat mat specifically for growing seedlings.
Monitor growth: Keep an eye on your seedlings and ensure they are getting enough water and light as they grow.
Teenager Growing Phase:
After growing the seedlings for about 4 weeks, repot the seedlings with it’s root ball to a larger 4–5-inch pot with organic soil to give it more nutrients and room to grow its root system.
Then let your entire plant continue to grow under lots of light (I recommend 16 hours of LED light using a timer to make it all hands off and easy to remember).
After another 3-4 weeks, your tomato plants are ready for the next phase before going out to the garden.
Hardening off tomato plants is the process of gradually acclimating them to outdoor conditions after they have been started indoors. Here are some steps you can follow to harden off your tomato plants:
Start by placing your tomato plants in a protected, shaded area outdoors for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the amount of time they spend outside over the course of 7-10 days.
Gradually expose your tomato plants to more direct sunlight and wind as they adjust to being outdoors. You can do this by moving them to an area with partial sun and wind protection for a few days before gradually increasing their exposure.
Water your tomato plants regularly during the hardening off process, as they may dry out faster in outdoor conditions than they did indoors.
Protect your tomato plants from extreme weather conditions such as frost, heavy rain or strong winds by covering them or bringing them inside if necessary.
After 7-10 days of gradual exposure, your tomato plants should be ready to be planted in their final growing location in the garden.
Remember that hardening off is an important step in ensuring the success of your tomato plants once they are transplanted outdoors.
What Temperature do Tomatoes LOVE?
Tomatoes love temperatures between 70-80°F during the day and 60-65°F at night. These temperatures allow for optimal growth and fruit production. However, it is important to note that extreme heat or cold can negatively affect tomato fruit growth and plants.
Tomatoes like warm weather that is not too hot over 85 degrees and not colder than 60 degrees.
When is it too hot for tomatoes to produce?
Tomatoes are warm-weather plants that thrive in temperatures between 70°F and 85°F (21°C and 29°C). However, when temperatures consistently exceed 90°F (32°C), tomato plants can experience a reduction in fruit set and quality. Here’s why:
Pollination: High temperatures can reduce the activity of bees, which are important pollinators for tomatoes. Without proper pollination, flowers may not produce fruit or produce misshapen or incomplete fruit.
Blossom drop: When temperatures consistently exceed 90°F (32°C), tomato plants may drop blossoms before they have a chance to develop into fruit.
Ripening: Extremely high temperatures can cause tomatoes to ripen prematurely or unevenly, affecting their flavor and texture.
Stress: Heat stress can weaken tomato plants, making them more susceptible to pests and diseases.
Tomato Growing Tip: Provide full sunshade 30-50% protection for your tomato plants during the hottest parts of the day. Here is a sunshade on Amazon.
Where to Plant?
Tomatoes can be planted in a variety of locations, as long as the soil is well-draining and receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. If you want to check out square foot gardening, see HERE for more info.
Here are some options for where you can plant your tomato plants:
Garden beds: Planting tomatoes in garden beds provides plenty of space for them to grow and allows for easy access when it’s time to harvest.
Raised beds: Raised beds provide good drainage and can help warm up the soil more quickly in the spring, which is beneficial for tomato plants.
Containers: Tomatoes can be grown in containers such as pots, buckets or grow bags. This is a great option if you have limited space or want to move your plants around throughout the growing season.
Vertical gardens: Growing tomatoes vertically on trellises or stakes maximizes space and makes harvesting easier.
Tips to Planting
Here are some tips for planting tomato plants:
Choose healthy plants: Look for seedlings in garden centers that have sturdy stems and dark green leaves. Avoid plants that look wilted or diseased.
Prepare the garden soil: Tomatoes prefer well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Add compost or organic material to improve soil fertility and structure.
Plant deep: When transplanting your seedlings, bury them up to the first set of true leaves. This encourages strong root development and helps prevent the plant from toppling over as it grows.
Space properly: Tomato plants need plenty of room to grow, so space them at least 18-24 inches apart in rows that are 3-4 feet apart.
Water regularly: Tomatoes need consistent moisture to thrive, so water deeply once or twice a week depending on weather conditions. Avoid overhead watering as that can cause disease.
Organic Fertilize: Add an organic liquid fertilizer once every other week to the garden soil base to support the root and plant development.
Mulch around plants: Mulching helps conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.
Support the plants: Once your tomato plants start to grow tall, they will need support such as cages, stakes or trellises to keep them upright and prevent branches from breaking under the weight of fruit. Use garden twine to keep connect the vines to the support system.
- If you want to learn how to make your own compost for healthy soil then check out this blog post on composting.
Supporting a tomato plant in a well potting soil is important to prevent it from toppling over as it grows and to encourage healthy fruit production.
If you’re using tomatoes or growing plants of an indeterminate tomato variety, you may want to use a trellis system. Install two vertical stakes on either side of the pot and attach horizontal wires or strings between them at intervals. As your tomato plants grow, tie them loosely to the trellis with soft twine or fabric strips.
Tomato cages can be purchased or made from wire mesh or bamboo stakes. Place the cage around the young tomato plant and secure it firmly the planting hole in the soil.
Stacks and Twine
Drive a sturdy stake into the soil next to buried stem of the tomato plant and tie the stem loosely to the stake with soft twine or fabric strips as it grows taller.
Remember that no matter which method you choose, it’s important not to tie your tomato plants too tightly, as this can damage the stems and restrict growth. And don’t forget to adjust your supports as needed throughout the growing season, especially if you’re using a trellis system.
What Fertilizers do you Use and When?
When growing tomatoes, it’s important to fertilize them appropriately to promote healthy growth and fruit production. Here are some common fertilizers used for growing tomatoes:
Compost: Adding compost to the garden soil before planting can help improve soil fertility and structure. You can also use compost as a top dressing throughout the season.
Organic fertilizers: Organic fertilizers, such as fish emulsion, bone meal, and blood meal, provide slow-release nutrients that are beneficial for tomato plants.
When to add fertilizer depends on the type of fertilizer you’re using. Compost can be added before planting or as a top mulch throughout the early summer and season. Organic fertilizers should be applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions or every 2-3 weeks during the growing season.
What is Blossom End Rot?
Blossom end rot is a common problem for tomato plants that results in a dark, sunken spot on the bottom of the fruit. It’s caused by a calcium deficiency in the developing fruit, which can occur when there’s uneven watering or excessive nitrogen fertilizer.
To prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes, it’s important to maintain consistent soil moisture by watering deeply and regularly. Adding calcium-rich amendments to the soil before planting can also help prevent this problem.
Remove affected fruits and make sure to water other plants consistently moving forward to prevent further damage.
Tips to Pruning
Pruning tomato plants is an important part of growing healthy and productive plants and keep from tomato diseases.
Here are some tips for pruning cherry tomatoes out:
Remove suckers: Suckers are the small shoots that grow out of the joint where a branch meets the stem. Removing them can help promote larger, healthier fruit by directing more energy to the main stem.
Remove lower leaves: As your tomato plant grows taller, it’s a good idea to remove the lower leaves that are touching or nearly touching the ground. This can help prevent disease and improve air circulation around the plant.
Thin branches: If your tomato plant has too many branches or is becoming overcrowded, thinning out some of the smaller or weaker ones can help direct more energy to the remaining branches.
Prune determinate varieties less: Determinate tomato varieties tend to produce fewer suckers and require less pruning than indeterminate varieties.
Remember that while pruning can be beneficial for your tomato plants, it’s important not to over-prune them, as this can reduce overall yield and stress the plant.
How Long Do Tomatoes Take to Grow?
It takes about 20-30 days for a tomato seed to germinate and another 60-80 days for the plant to produce mature fruit.
Some determinate varieties of tomato can produce ripe fruit in as little as 50-60 days after transplanting into the garden. Indeterminate tomato varieties or, tomatoes tend on the other hand, can take up to 90-100 days or more to produce ripe fruit.
It’s also important to note that while ripe tomatoes set fruit may be ready for harvest within a certain timeframe, they will continue to ripen off the vine if left at room temperature. This means you don’t necessarily need to wait until all outdoor tomatoes and fruits are fully ripe before harvesting them from your plants.
Learning to grow your own tomatoes is a steppingstone into learning to grow more of your own food. Find a variety that you love to eat, whether it’s cherry tomatoes or large beautiful heirloom tomatoes and start growing it from a transplant.
Use 5-10 minutes a day to take care of your tomato, whether you are watering, pruning, fertilizing, or harvesting and enjoy watching something beautiful grow. Here is a resource page for things that you can get to plant your own tomato garden in a container.
That’s what growing our own food is all about. Growing and watching other things grow too. So take the time to learn and grow in a new skill and start with a a tomato plant.